Steven Winters had been saving up for months while looking for his dream car: a white BMW 3 Series M Sport. His search reached its conclusion last Christmas Day, when he spotted a 2011-plate BMW at Phoenix Motown in Paisley.
Steven drove away a happy man a few days later, but his smile disappeared when, in the sunlight, he noticed the driver’s side door was a different shade of white to the rest of the car. He hot-footed it back to Phoenix, who he’d already got to know well as he’d had ongoing issues with the car’s service history. The salesman was sympathetic but said it was a manufacturing defect and BMW’s responsibility.
Steven made an appointment with his local BMW dealer, Douglas Park, and was staggered to learn this was no production line fault; the door had been badly repainted. Armed with a £795 repair estimate, Steven got in touch with Phoenix, but his calls and emails went unanswered.
Then he consulted the car’s logbook and discovered its previous owner was a car hire company – Scot Group, trading as Thrifty. It’s an advertised policy of Phoenix Motown’s that it never sells pre-rental cars; it can vouch for the history of every vehicle. Steven got in touch with Helpdesk and we contacted Thrifty to ask about the car’s history. The company refused point blank to speak to us.
We then appealed for Phoenix Motown to shed some light on the car’s history, and to pay for the door to be repainted properly. The company responded swiftly; the car had been serviced in line with BMW’s warranty requirements and Phoenix could supply all supporting documents.
However, Phoenix disputed the paint repair had affected the car’s value. It did agree to buy the car back, but at several thousand pounds less than Steven had paid.
We believed Steven should not lose money through no fault of his own and got in touch with Douglas Park BMW. It agreed to conduct an extensive inspection of Steven’s car and ascertain its value. The examination revealed a catalogue of problems pointing at vandalism. All the windows bar two rear quarter panes had been replaced. There were loose glass shards beneath the seats and behind the door trim.
Rejection was now the only option. We went back to Phoenix Motown. The dealer is a member of the What Car?-endorsed Trusted Dealer network, so we wasted no time informing both MDs. It wasn’t long before we heard from Phoenix Motown’s sales director. He explained the BMW had been acquired for a customer who had been unable to raise the necessary finance. ‘It’s not our policy to sell ex-rental cars, or cars in the condition it’s now clear this one is in,’ he said. ‘Obviously the right thing to do is give Mr Winters his money back.’
Steven has now bought a new BMW 318d M Sport, and was happy to deal with Douglas Park BMW.
What if this happens to you?
- Never buy a car before checking that all of the supporting documentation, including its service book, is present.
- If you have any concerns about the car's history contact the previous owner using their address in the logbook.
- Third parties, such as the AA and RAC, carry out vehicle inspections that can reveal accident damage.